I had the pleasure of interviewing Jennifer Trebisovsky. She is a writer and an artist who spends most of her time writing down ideas, painting and talking about food with friends. She’s got a habit of re-reading her favorite books even when she knows there’s so many other wonderful ones out there. She does, however, hope you re-read her books — Make It A Good Day is her second book, The Caiman and The Butterfly is her first, and she’s excited to write more.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Career path questions are difficult for me. You see, I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up, but I know there is a lot I want to learn. So lately, I’ve been looking at my “career” path as more of a “learning” path. I’ve always been interested in creative writing and art. Both activities were staples in my elementary school education, and practices I’ve continued through secondary school and adulthood. My mother always had the idea that I would grow up to write children’s books, and here I am. So whether that was a self-fulfilling prophecy or ESP, she definitely planted the seed that led to Make It A Good Day and my path to writing children’s books. But there’s plenty of additional creative endeavors I hope to undertake.
What does it mean for you to live “on purpose”? Can you explain? How can one achieve that?
To live on purpose is to be an active participant in your life. So often we’re distracted or disengaged — we spend so much time being distracted, going through the motions, replaying the past and worrying about the future instead of experiencing and living in the present moment. Being present increases intentionality. If you’re engaged in ‘right now’ you’re making smarter, more intuitive decisions. You’re experiencing life as it unfolds rather than living to experience results. I think that’s living on purpose — being present and open.
Do you have an example or story in your own life of how your pain helped to guide you in finding your life’s purpose?
My life’s purpose? Well, beyond being kind and loving, I haven’t quite figured out my life purpose. But I know that a childhood spotted with loss taught me the beauty in vulnerability and expression. When my grandmother passed away in 2014, that was especially hard. I turned to gardening and writing and painting to work through the grief and sadness — all of which eventually led to creative projects of mine: Sally’s Syrup, a simple syrup company where I used herbs from my garden, my first book of poetry, The Caiman and The Butterfly, and my most recent book, Make It A Good Day.
The United States is currently rated at #18 in the World Happiness Report. Can you share a few reasons why you think the ranking is so low?
I think in the United States we measure happiness in the wrong ways. We focus on the outer self and neglect the inner self. We’re taught to value material things over experiences. And we’re constantly bombarded with efficiencies and the future. Happiness meets us in the present moment. It meets us in curiosity, savoring, gratitude and connection. We need to do a better job, as a country, to focus on and promote those qualities.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
One of my favorite things to do is to visit classrooms to read Make It A Good Day followed by an art activity. I think that’s a little bit of goodness that can go a long way by leading as an example and encouraging children to use their imagination to express their thoughts and feelings through art. It’s brought a lot of goodness to my life, and I feel a responsibility and enthusiasm to share creative expression with others.
What are your 6 strategies to help you face your day with exuberance, “Joie De Vivre” and a “ravenous thirst for life”? Can you please give a story or example for each?
Decide to make it a good day. This is one of the most important strategies to help you face your day with exuberance. By setting the intention to make your day good you’re already approaching your day with positivity. It gives you a little control in a world where we sometimes have very little. It reminds you that you get to decide how you respond to what comes up throughout your day and to respond in a way that encourages happiness.
Stop comparing. There’s incredible truth to the saying, “comparison is the thief of joy.” Comparing yourself, your work, your life to others is a sure way to rob you of joy. Be you. Don’t worry about what others are doing. Do what makes you happy. Do what fills you.
Meditate. Slowing down and breathing deeply helps you reconnect with the present moment (and that’s where happiness lives, remember?).
Be kind to others. Someone holds the door for you, let’s you merge in traffic, compliments your shoes — it makes you feel nice.
Positive Affirmations. Using positive affirmations daily helps to overcome negative thinking and to start making positive changes in life. By treating yourself with love and kindness you are better able to treat others with love and kindness, both resulting in a more joyful day.
6. Gratitude. Giving thanks is a very easy and effective way to instill a sense of joy for life. Take ten minutes each morning or night to write down five things you are grateful for. Your answers don’t have to be complex or involved — just honest.
Do you have any favorite books, podcasts, or resources that most inspired you to live with a thirst for life?
I really enjoy The Unmistakable Creative podcast. The practice of meditation has also inspired my thirst for life. A couple of other books that have been very formative in my outlook of life include The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff, Tuesdays With Morrie by Mitch Albom and When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chödrön. I’d also recommend the documentary Tell Them Anything You Want: A Portrait of Maurice Sendak by Lance Bangs and Spike Jonze as well as season three, episode one of Chef’s Table on Netflix about the Buddhist chef Jeong Kwan.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote” that relates to having a Joie De Vivre? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I absolutely loved Jim Carrey’s 2014 commencement speech at Maharishi University of Management. He notes, “you can fail at what you don’t want, so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love.” That line made me pause. And I reflect on it often as I catch myself wondering what to do next on my learning path.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I’m always creating and trying new things. I’m working on another children’s book, that’s also for adults. It’s a collection of short poems and illustrations. I’m also looking forward to spending more time on Vegetables Are Cool, a project started in 2017 that aims to address food and nutrition in public systems, particularly schools. Ultimately, Vegetables Are Cool will help us better understand how to better educate students and their families on local produce and food systems.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
Where to begin! I’d love to inspire a movement with food at the center. Food is such a beautiful and useful resource for building connections and community. While I haven’t figured out what the movement looks like, I know my goal is to create stronger, more local food economies that encourage healthier lifestyles and a better human relationship with the Earth.